[Returning home from Rwanda 2 days ago I am now trying to process what I saw and heard. So, I will post for each day. Pictures will be forthcoming as well.]
First impressions of Africa after traveling for 20 plus hours? The smell of charcoal cooking fires. Stepping of the plane onto the tarmac at Kigali airport your nostrils immediately detect the thick smell of smoke. Many people, even in the city and even if they have wealth, cook their meals out of doors. We were met at the door by Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo of the Gahini Diocese. The bishop and some of his staff welcomed us and drove the four of us to our retreat house (The House of Tranquility on the east edge of Lac Muhazi). Since we arrived after dark we couldn’t see much of what we passed on our 1 plus hour ride. But we still had our experiences along the way! Picture an undivided highway with a mass of people walking or biking along the road and no street lights or reflective clothing. People of all ages and under all sorts of burdens. Even in the rural sections, we never went more than a few yards without seeing someone walking along the road. Further, people drive quite differently there. When a car approaches, use your left turn signal to let them know where your outer edge is. Also, use your horn as a constant means of communicating–brief honks to let the moped drivers that we were passing by. Oh, and though they drive on the “right” side of the road, our car had the driver on the left side. Since I was in the shotgun position, I had a wonderful view of oncoming traffic when we drifted across the lanes and around sharp turns while passing slower traffic.
Our group (Diane Langberg, Josh Straub (of AACC), Leah Herod (Columbia International University), and myself) had our first meals and meeting together on the plane ride but now we were glad to arrive at our destination–a stucco 2 story building with dining and living space and 4 nice bedrooms with shared bathrooms and the requisite mosquito nets (this picture was taken some time ago as the bushes are very much bigger than this).
A quick meal of vegetable soup, fried bananas, fried tilapia, cassava, rice, and potatoes (notice the heavy emphasis of starch) and off to bed. Tomorrow will begin our serious work of fact-finding, discovering the current resources, needs and possible interventions we might bring to deal with the problem of trauma due to the 1994 genocide of nearly 800,000 people in just under 100 days.
Already I am well aware of my self-centered life. I love Jesus but also comfort. I am struck by the level of sacrifice and hardship and the impossibility of turning a blind eye to dangers (moral, physical, etc.) in this country.
Tomorrow we are off to Butare, a university city in the South of the country.